tv Lectures in History 19th- Century Artist Winslow Homer CSPAN October 24, 2018 10:35pm-12:00am EDT
series for dc comics. watch in-depth fiction addition on november 4 from noon until three clock p.m. eastern. watch in-depth fiction addition next month when brad meltzer will be our guest. american history tb continues with wake forest university professor david lubin, teaching a class on 19th- century artist, winslow homer. he served as an artist correspondent for harvest weekly during the civil war. he gained notice for his paintings of war related scenes. professor lubin explores the symbolism found in his work. there is commentary about [ indiscernible ] and meditations on nature. this is just under an hour and a half. hello everybody. welcome back to class. it's good to see you after our long break. as you recall, last
time, we were talking about american genre painting. we talked about whitham's death williams in the amount. to be a painter back in the day, you had have three names. in our class today, we'll talk about the greatest american genre painter, winslow homer, his work began at the civil war. to call him a genre painter is like calling michelangelo's ceiling painter. he goes well beyond that. he is genre painting with the difference. he was born in cambridge, where harvard is, outside of boston. homer and his family had nothing to do with harvard. he was not an educated person. he never went to university. he was a townie. he apprenticed
with the printmaker. that was his livelihood. he illustrated for local publications. he rose to the top very quickly due to his skill level, and started illustrating for harpers weekly magazine. it was one of the most prominent magazines in the civil war era. after the civil war began, he was sent to the front lines as an artist, correspondent. he was a war journalist. his medium was drawing. he started doing depictions of union camp life. it's about what it's like to be
a union soldier. he is reporting back what life was like at the front. by and large, these were happy, cheery, nonthreatening images. no parent wanted to see a grizzly, terrible battle. his pictures had a certain levity to them. from the beginning, there is an undertone. people can recognize it. looking back, we can see that depth and darkness of these images. one of the first images, one that i'm partial to is called army of the potomac. at the sharpshooter on duty. disappeared in his weekly, november 13, 1862 episode. it's a black-and-white drawing of a union soldier, perched in a tree. he is holding a rifle up against his face. he is using a bow of the tree
to support the rifle barrel and himself. his canteen is hanging from the trunk of the tree. it's almost like it's a giant not in the tree. you can then see the quality of the tree, and the bark. main thing is, what you see about this man's face? >> he is very focused? >> yes, that becomes a theme throughout his work. this is mental concentration. this is an intense concentration. that is very good. what else? what do you see about him? is he smiling? is he frowning? can you identify this man? >> [ indiscernible ]
>> the gun completely covers his face. the shadow the hat covers his face. this is another thing we will see in homer. he did not like to paint faces. is not because he wasn't talented. i think it was a reason. the individual face of a person was not important to him. body language was important to him. homer is the great american artist of body language. with this man, we see the gun almost coming out of his face. this is a mechanical extension of his face. the camera barrel is extenuating this. this is almost like homer himself is concentrating and staring. he is one of the great
observers of american art. this is an image of a man intensely focusing and observing. however, is this a benign thing he is doing? russell? >> [ indiscernible ] it's a comment on the soldier in a time of war. he is no longer a person, he is an extension of what he has to do. >> did you hear that? russell's claim is that this images showing that a man at war becomes depersonalized, and becomes a part of the war machine. that is an image, or a meaning i'm not so sure that anyone recognized in his time. i think that's what he's commenting here. this is the dehumanization of warfare.
whether it's benign or not, also depends on your perspective. if you are a yankee, you think, yes, the man is protecting his colleagues and comrades typing up in the tree and looking for suspicious activity by confederates. if you are confederate soldier, it's not benign at all. at the nameless, faceless creature and a tree who is taking life away. what sort of balances as men have the tray? is he carefully anxious dash right anchored and stable? is he in a precarious position? >> he's not very anchored. he is hanging on with one hand. he's balancing on just one
limb. >> exactly. he is supposed to have a steady, pinpoint fix on the target. this is a balancing act. what is the relevance of the man's body to the larger team that russell raised? >> the most stable object is the gun. i agree with russell's opinion that the gun is the most important thing. the man's face is covered because he is now the weapon. his identity doesn't matter. having his body unstable and off centered, or not grounded
make sense. the gun is very level. >> everything has gone to the purpose of the gun. the man in the tree are subservient to the war machinery. powerful thought. as you will see, this is consistent. he is almost philosophically examining the roles of the individual within the larger social forces of his or her time. homer started off drawing. he was not a painter. his mother was a watercolor artist. she was an amateur. we think that's where he got his artistic skills.
this is a painting of two soldiers in camp life. is nothing unusual. these are not men that we are supposed to praise. this is just an ordinary glimpse, going about daily life in camp. there is a band in the background. this is probably early-morning music. what about the body language of these two people? >> this is about the painting set and the union. it is glorifying war for the purposes of politics of the period. these guys seem like they don't care. >> that's right.
these are men who are not driven by passionate ideals to support the country or end slavery. these are soldiers that are doing a soldiers job. they're not thrilled about it. this is not a situation of danger. this is a situation of boredom. they are not about to fight, and they are bored. the red badge of courage, which wasn't written until the 1890s, but describes the soldiers with anxiety to get into battle. they would like something to finally happen after all of these days of waiting around. these men are roommates. how do they interact with each other? >> they are not facing one another. like you said, they are just waiting for something to do you.
s.t.e.m. that is very good. if you think about that, they are not facing each other. in fact, one soldier has turned his back on the other. and imagine, if you and your roommate interacted like that. it would almost suggest, get out of my space. i don't want to acknowledge that you are there. this is another, beautiful moment. both men are looking down. it's almost like they are looking at different things. in fact, they are not looking at the world around them. they are probably looking into their past or their future. they are elsewhere. homer shows, in a confined space, these two soldiers who are not related to one another, and their gestures parallel one another. they are in the same mental note , but in different places mentally. the title of the painting, can
anybody imagine what the title of this is? it's called home sweet home. is that humorous? what is the joke here? what is home sweet home? there is a song about it. it is the place that everyone wants to go. >> it's where we think of comfort. [ indiscernible ] you think about positive things. >> that is great, there is a double irony here. this is the home sweet home. this is where they sleep on rainy nights, and eat lousy food. they have this bad surrogate for home, and go to the home they have left behind.
parading around, oblivious to the real seriousness of war. the mother understands the seriousness of war, the children's father, her husband, would be somewhere, a yankee soldier, somewhere in the front. or maybe at pittsburgh. i put these two images together because it is almost as if spencer is showing us the home front, homer, ironically named, is showing us the warfront. in fact, because homer was such a monster, i think he was aware of his last name, being relevant
, here. maybe in a sense, this is about himself and his own longings for home. so, another image for this time shows you, i think, the kind of raw, visual power that homer takes command of very early. anyone want to sort of describe this? shawn, can i ask you to throw in a few descriptive phrases about this painting? >> it seems very dark. [ inaudible answer ] >> i missed the last part of it? >> [ inaudible answer ] >> yes, exactly. >> at the top he is looking at the sky. >> excellent. let me just pick up on what sean was saying.
homer devise -- divides the composition and a half. there is the earth have and the sky have, dark brown, and black, hello. blue, gray, silver, sky up above, and then this one figure standing on the embankment, rising into the sky. and, somebody tell me, what is his body leg which? >> he looks kind of like scared, like something is going to happen. like you said last time, everything is dependent on body language. he looks like he is interpreting some kind -- type of signal that is coming down. >> that is a really good interpretation of it. i want you to notice his right hand is balled into a fist, his left arm is sort of counterbalancing behind him. so, again, he is a man in a precarious position. he is not on the tree, he is on the top of this embankment. but what he is doing, he is
hunching his shoulders, a confederate shoulder and he is -- soldier and he is shouting something to the yankees in the distance. the title of the painting gives it away, inviting a shot at petersburg, virginia, where there was a series of battles. it is also called "defiance." it is an image of a rebel soldier defying the yankees, to come and get him. he is taunting them. we often the distance, you see a little puff of smoke. what is the puff of smoke? >> someone shooting him. >> someone shooting at him. he is daring them to come and shoot at him. and, now notice the human figures here, which we will look at in detail in a second. that, a lot of little black figures here that almost seem like humans but they are not. they are trees. they have been diluted, half destroyed by bombardment. so, this man is in coma basically,
a hellish, apocalyptic situation. but, showing defiance, courage, bravery. he is part of the yankee side, but he is showing, actually, the bravery of a confederate shoulder. -- soldier. so, it is almost as if we could put these two images together, the sharp shooter is the man up in the tree, who is firing at the lone soldier, on the other side of the no man's land. so, already we see with homer this emphasis on the loneliness of the individual. the aloneness. even if you are in a tent, carrying a tent in a small space -- sharing a tent with -- in a small space with your comrade you are still all alone, this is the sort of -- a
central theme of winslow homer, that goes through his work until the very end. we will trip -- track that today. what you cannot see very well in the slide, and really at any time, is there are a few men here, and one of them is a black man. and, he has a banjo. can anybody see -- d.c. the figure? i was able to find a detail -- do you see the figure? i was able to find the detail. it shows a minstrel figure, with a banjo, looking scared. the whites of his eyes are showing. he has big lips, he is a figure of what would have been humor, sort of a casual, every day white racism in the north. so, and clearly the north is fighting a war against the south on the topic of slavery, but there is plenty of racism, antiblack racism, going on in
the north as well. so, i want to say that winslow homer, a child of his time, he is imbibing this sort of stereotype of the time. as we will see, i believe he transcends the stereotypes, he arrives at a different place, i want you to see in the beginning, he is fitting into that world. so, this becomes homer's -- finished in 1866, this is the painting that made winslow homer famous. it was exhibited in new york, and was -- attracted very positive reviews. crowd came to see it. the title is clear, "prisoners from the front". a young general -- it kind of reminds me of ferris bueller. a matthew broderick type. he is receiving the laid down weapons, of three confederate soldiers while the yankee guards are standing there, and then out of focus is the rest
of the troops. there is that same sort of torn up battlefield that we saw in "defiance". the stumps of the trees. who can tell me about these three soldiers? that is the key to the painting, these three visitors. each one is different from the other. homer is telling us something about them, by their composure. anyone want to take a move? russell? >> the first one from the right to left, wearing a cap, he seems to resemble the defiant character. >> remember, in this course we talk about the aristocratic pose, where the hand is on the hip, which is a sign of control, you know, manliness. so, yes, continue. >> the guy in the middle has his hands clasped, which would indicate that he is possibly a
little more nervous. >> not only that, having your hands clasped was a sign of submission. handcuff me, jamie, lock me up. i give up. so, he is the old man. you have the young, long-haired rebel, the bearded philosopher slave. and then what about the third figure in the row? >> he was more useful, the prisoner. his hands are in his pockets, and the way he is standing behind the old man, makes it seem like his hiding -- he is hiding. great, that is a very good interpretation. this man is saying i am not really here. some of you in the class are doing that right now. just, you know, do not call on me, i am not really here. he has got his hands shoved in his pockets but not, like, sticking out and saying take me, handcuff me, but it is like
shucks, i am a poor country boy. i do not know what is going on. he looks befuddled. and, he would've been seen as a country person. or, a country person. homer reinforces that. i noticed the horizon line of that hill goes up at a diagonal, and picks up with the man's soldier, and the edge of his cap. so, he is of the country. he is really not this outstanding sophisticate that the officer in the front is. i would say that it is probably the same model as the man inviting the shot at petersburg. who also has sort of the bed roll over his soldier and a hat. so, why would prisoners from the front be such a noteworthy painting? why did it have a lot of effect on people? jackie, why do you think? >> because they were the main
people that were like fighting battle. >> okay, so it is a cross- section. homer is giving the north a cross-section of the confederacy. the heroic dashing rebel, the old man who was dragged into it, the lower class, uneducated white people who did not really know what was going on. he has humanized them. he is not showing them as evil people of another -- you know, monsters. he is not demonizing them as we have seen so often in this class. how people demonize the enemy. so, homer is very -- in a general, is very courtly, excepting there surrender -- excepting there surrender in a positive light. northerners love this story of ulysses s
grant, and robert e lee, the southern general, meeting and speaking civilly to one another. because it gave them a hope evie peaceful reconciliation -- hope evie peaceful reconciliation. that proved not to be the case. i would say prisoners from the front embodied hope that there can be a humane ending to the were. another homer painting from this period, veterans in a field, 1865-1866, what does it show? ray, what do you see in this? >> a man working on the field. [ inaudible answer ] >> you mean the painting of the farmer by william cindy amount. -- melt -- mount.
in western traditions, what does the size usually symbolize. >> usually you associated either with work, kind of like farming, in a very literal sense. farming and work. or, paradoxically, it could also be like death. like the grim reaper. >> the grim reaper, the images of the green -- grim reaper with the hood over his head, and he cuts down people. as the farmer cuts down the wheat, the grim reaper cuts down people as they lift. now, is that pushing this too far? is homer saying something about mowing down other people? what does this have to do with the war? >> [ inaudible answer ] it
shows that nothing remains standing. >> the desolation, okay. >> they are showing nothing is safe, it stands for power against the war. >> that is definitely one way of reading this. it is about how the war lays waste to everything in its path. so, the veteran here, symbolizes the killing machinery of the war. yes? >> i find it interesting that the veterans are in the field. it is like what is coming, i feel like the word veteran implies that for he was a soldier and now he is a veteran. i think that the opposite. >> that is a very good explanation. once again, homer is making a pun. the new field is the postwar era. the reconstruction era. what happens when somebody who has spent 4 years of his life,
killing other human beings, is now released back into civilization? what does he do that? he was concerned for people in the north and the south, it was a huge concern in america, after world war i, and again after world war ii. wonderful, wonderful movie from world war ii called the best years of our lives, about veterans who returned from the front of -- abroad, and the wall that they hit emotionally, and economically when they get home. they cannot really find work themselves, they are not accepted after the vietnam war this was a huge problem. in the u.s. so, okay, veteran in a field, what you see then is kind of the horizon line is blocked. we do not have any fuel for what is to come. it is a wall in front of us, the viewer, as much as it is in front of the soldier. either way, you cannot really
see this in the image, it has almost been rubbed out, but you see homer puts the soldier -- his union code on the ground, -- coat on the ground, he is taking off his coat to prepare for the work ahead of him. usually i love the fact -- the contortion of the body. he really captures what kind of emotions -- kind of motions you make. many years ago i worked on a farm in the swiss alps. i got to scythe some weeds. i know that motion, it is very dangerous if you get carried away you might law -- lop off an arm or two. i survived that. homer, after he paints this series of war images, it is almost like light not, winslow
homer. let's get a more positive thing going on, here. so, he starts painting new england schoolrooms, new england young women, young boys courting, romancing, these are often seen as highly some -- sentimental, romantic, almost balanced -- valentine's day images. of course, there is much more to them than meets the eye. one of my favorite ones is this painting called "the country school" which is in the st. louis art museum. it is a small painting, much smaller than what we see on the screen here. what do we see? we see a one-room country schoolhouse in which a teacher is standing in the center, reading a lesson, and there are three, almost 4 windows visible. one on the far left, two in the center, and then just to the edge of one on the far right.
of those two windows, the two center windows -- and then there is the blackboard, the chalkboard behind the teacher. of these two windows, can you see any difference between them? or, what we see out of them? i will tell you, the window on the left, the shade is more up, there is a hillside, we see into the distance. you cannot really make it out that well, but there is a horizon out there. the window on the right, the shade is down and all you see is the grassy hillside beyond it. so, what can you tell me about the kids? how are the children arranged? making? >> all of the boys are on the left and all of the girls are on the right. >> exactly. it is separate spheres, sort of internal segregation of the boys on the left and the girls on the right. now, we have a few details here, the boys are all barefoot.
they are all country lads coming in from the fields to study their lessons. they are sitting under the window, and on the right, are the girls. they are much more dressed up, with little petticoats and boots. and, then there are these two little kids. and, this little girl who was looking at the boy next to her who is bawling his eyes out. he is probably bawling his eyes out because he is the only boy wearing shoes, and he is the one who is stuck on the girls side. he does not like that too much. he wants to be with the older boys. well, again, it is almost a cute genre painting of the world into the male and female. and, i would say, that the boys side, the window is open and has horizon and possibility, the girls side is closed, what about the teacher?
what can you tell us about the teacher? she is female, after all. julia, what is your take on her? >> the teacher is framed by the chalkboard, is -- she is only projecting her own knowledge like the chalkboard, which she needs for the girls and the boys. and then she is in the middle of the two windows. she is bridging the gap between the male and female spheres. her desk is moved a little bit towards the girls, that is preventing her from fully realizing her but -- potential. >> that is an excellent analysis of this. in fact, in new england after -- in ruled england, after the civil war, there are only two or three options open for a young woman. she could get married and have children, she could work in the mill, she could be a prostitute
, or she could be a schoolteacher. there are not many more options. and, being a schoolteacher is a dead-end. there is no economic development . she will not go off to harvard after, which of course would not have accepted women anyway. there are not -- no further educational opportunities for her. i would think homer might even be suggesting by the blackboard behind her that she is the one who has already met her dead- end. the girls beneath the window, at least there is some sort of place for them to go. but, she is frozen. another image that homer paints around the same time, not nearly as powerful, it is more overt, but it expresses the notion. it is called "noon recess". there, the teacher who is not a pretty, young teacher, is having to stay in because she has given this boy a detention. and, he has to read and she is
sitting here, looking so bored. boredom is a recurring theme for homer. she wants to be outside in the sunlight. she wants to have life, but instead she is restricted in space. so, you could say, going back there, that winslow homer is about -- some people think he is a misogynist. that he shows females in inferior positions. i think we can make a case, whatever he was like in his personal life, i think his paintings are very sympathetic to the case of people who are suffering one kind of limitation or another. whether it is a veteran suffering what we now call posttraumatic stress disorder, or a teacher who realizes her horizons have been blacked out. homer was really an outsider, all of his life. and, he was particularly
sensitive to the loneliness, as i've been saying, of other outsiders. okay, this became one of homer's most famous paintings. it is still a very famous painting. it is the image, almost a tom sawyer, huck finn, image of american innocence. you have a number of boys, that is what they were called, that became a sentimental term for the young american lad who would go out there and was going to raise himself up by his bootstraps. he did not even have any bootstraps in these cases. he is barefoot. in touch with nature. feet on the ground. and, these boys are playing a game, they are outside of the schoolhouse that we were just looking at from inside. they are nestled in a little glade in the countryside, perhaps the berkshire mountains, somewhere up in northern new england, or upstate new york.
and, they are playing a game. i do not know if you can see, off on the far left, the lower left, there are two girls with hoops for watching. there dressed up, they have their shoes on, their boots on, they're watching the boys at play. what game are the boys playing? does anybody recognize this game? what is this? >> we called it the light of murder. >> the line of murder. homer would love that title. why is it a line of murder? >> snap the witch. >> it is called crack the whip. you crack a whip, snappy whip, what happens in this game? you've obviously played this game and survived? >> people end up being on the end usually end up flying off of the line. the people in the middle stay in tact. >> okay, is that the definition of conformism or what?
the people who stay in the middle stay safe, those who go out, the outliers, the people on the edges, they risk falling off from the communal chain, as it were. so, you notice what happens here, the biggest, bulky us, strongest boy is leaning back, holding the next biggest boy, who is holding this boy, who is holding this boy, and what they tried to do is move the line around as fast as possible. so, the weak link at the end is falling off. so, is this simply homer talking about boys being boys? country lads, america, which is so great and wonderful, or is this a metaphor for anything? >> it could be a metaphor to say that one day they will actually being competing -- be competing against each other. once they grow up it is not a game anywhere. >> okay, great, riley is saying
it is a just -- it is just a game now, but when they grow up it will get serious. the game is just a childhood version of adult responsibility's. dillon, what were you going to say? >> it looks like survival. >> yes, survival of the fittest, which was an idea that was very much in the public consciousness at that time. in 1859, darwin used the term natural selection to talk about how species were brands of flora and fauna and a zoology survive, and others go under. survival of the fittest was a term coined by herbert spencer, a biologist philosopher if you lay -- years later, saying that is what human existence really is. darwin linked -- liked the term, he picked it up in 1869. so, my question is, in 1872, when homer paints snap the whip
, is it far-fetched to think he is looking for a way of expressing what you have just seen in here? or are we just imagining something from a present-day perspective? >> i think that is likely that he was doing that. the hill is the natural accent, so it associates them to nature . it is survival of the fittest. >> i have to say, there are two versions of this painting. this one is in toledo, ohio. the other one is in the met in new york. the one in the met does not have the hillside. and, i much prefer this one for the very reason you are talking about, because of that convergence of forces. that is, again, this huge theme, forces converge, and individuals are powerless to resist the forces. test, lily? >> it seems that the strongest boys are on the right, as you
move to the left, you see the boys have fallen over, they end up being the weaker link. the two girls are even further back, even smaller on the left side showing that they are not even part of the competition. >> there is a social hierarchy going on here, and the girls are at the bottom wrong -- rung, symbolically. they are not even in the game. yes, this is what people talk about, the term social darwinism was quiet at this time to try and apply darwinian rules, natural selection, to society as a whole. it was used to justify laws a fair -- capitalism, where people deserve to live in rich homes if they are rich, poor people are not as smart or hard- working, they are not as deserving, and therefore they are at the bottom of the rung.
i would say homer, whether he is accepting natural selection or social darwinism, or critiquing it, either way he is identifying that. through his depiction of country life. he is touching on an important social issue. so, another of his most famous popular paintings shows off cape cod, a sailboat with 1, 2, 3 lads at a bearded mariner. and, the boat is keeling into the wind. it is picking up the wind, picking up the brief. there is another boat in the distance, a seagull in the sky. one of the boys has shoes on.
this one, these two are barefoot. there barefoot boys. 1876, what is 1876 in american history? it is the centennial. it is the sort of recognition that america has been through a period of adolescence -- youth and adolescence. and now it is reaching its first majority. could you see any way in which this painting is somehow homer's ingenious commentary on america in the future? sarah? >> they are traveling in control of the ship, you can see them steering in the back. and the background has the giant ship, the people who came over to our country from. this is the origins, and now we are going faster, forward. >> this is the origins of the country, and this is where we are today, moving forward. okay, i think both of those
interpretations work. what i'm interested in, and what you are saying, is it is a sweet picture of a dad and his kids, or an adult and the children. it is also about learning, about progress, about the future . this is another -- i have said perhaps the biggest, most consistent seen for homer -- scene for homer is isolation. the second most important is the transmission of knowledge, how one generation can educate the next. sean? >> this sort of precarious position of the boat that they are in, you cannot tell whether they are about to flip over in the ocean. >> his point is very will taken, the boat is precarious. it seems precarious. we are going to see other homer boats that are more precarious. when i want to note here is it is in a harbor, god forbid
something should happen, the boat should tip over. these people are not far from rescue. that is an important thing to note. you know, i cannot teach a class without showing a kennedy image. this was the image that introduced jack kennedy to the general national public when he was engaged to jaclyn bouvier. this was their courtship, and senator kennedy goes according -- courting. the photographer from life when out with them where the kennedys lives, and this is somebody who's going to be running for political office. he is shown as what? to use a term i have been using throughout the class? megan? >> a barefoot boy. >> a barefoot boy. why would you want to show sophisticated john f. kennedy
in this situation as a barefoot boy? >> it makes them relatable to the american people, less, a lake -- like, elite. >> it takes away from that elite persona, that will not get him elected and makes him an american boy. a tom sawyer. with the whole association of barefoot and is being -- of being barefoot as being pure, authentic, connected to the earth. honesty, boyish qualities. that is what kennedy was famous for. his voice quality. people loved that, people adored that about him. i would say the photographer who took this probably -- he was basically known as a sports photographer. whether he knew this painting by homer or not, he is referencing it, in the same sort of world.
another 1876 painting of an older guy, it is hard to see his face here because of the brim of his hat, and he is backlit. the brim of his hat is covering his face. he has a big, full beard. he is pointing to a young woodsman who was wearing a bright red shirt, sharing and ask -- transition, standing on a mountain slope, and he is chopping down some trees. what would thomas cole say about this? we know he would've been not pleased with the idea of traipsing into the wilderness to chop it down. this seems to be an image of the incipient the naturalization -- denaturalization of america. where is homer standing on this? what i would say, first of all
is that homer, and i keep making this point, homer saw himself -- i do not know if he thought so, but homer was really at his greatest as a neutral observer who tries to look at contemporary american life and visualize it in a way that resonates meeting. so, what he has is, again, 1876 is this watershed year, a watershed year, he has the old woodsman and the new woodsman, side-by-side, the old woodsman is transmitting knowledge to the young woodsman. he is like, this is how you have to go about it, whether it is to tear down the forest or preserve the forest, this is where to go next. again, it is an image of transmission, it is also an image of man in nature in a way that begins to suggest maybe a domination of nature. well, after the civil war, around the same time, homer
makes a couple of trips down to virginia. that old confederacy. and, he spends time with former slaves. and gets to know them. and he gets to know some of their former masters and mistresses. and this is one of the masterpieces he pays at this time. the cotton pickers, showing two women heaving very -- she has a very heavy bag full of cotton. this woman has a basket full of cotton. you see the con filling it up. and, it is pretty. i mean, it is a pretty scene, it is delicately painted. with these pinks, lavender's, green, white, and yellows. so, what emotion do you read from the two figures? it can be ambiguous, but, annabelle, what you see with them? >> some of them are looking
down on the others, some of them are staring out into the distance. they obviously do not look happy. they are sort of neutral. right, this is now part of the racist literature of the period of post-civil war. they are saying that the darkies love the slaves. that is the good old self to them. homer is showing them sort of despondent. this is what freedom brought us, we are still working ungodly hours for meager pay. we do not own anything. the cotton field is -- as pretty as it is to look at, seems was. it goes on and on as far as you can see. and, as annabelle said, i feel this woman is bored or dejected, or even resentful. the other woman is looking off,
she looks beautiful, she is looking off into the distance, hoping for some sort of better world like the schoolteacher in the country school. again, we do not really get detailed faces, but through their bodies and positioning we get a sense of who they are. yes? >> they are shrouded by this blackness are darkness, like the chalk board. they are enclosed by that. >> excellent. they are sort of locked in to their farm woman equipment. sean? >> i see, especially in the face of the girl with the bag, it is almost like stoic, where it is like i am going to bear this burden gracefully, and not necessarily openly display how despondent i am. >> it is stoic. what you are reaching for. this stoic look on her face. of endurance.
great, okay, excellent. so, i think homer, as you can see, remember the first image of inviting a shot at petersburg where you see the black man as a cliched, stereotypical black minstrel, with a silly look on his face. homer has become more sensitized by actually spending time with the oppressed. and, i think being very sympathetic towards them. well, after his time in virginia, he goes to new york for a while. and he is not happy in new york. it is too much the big city for him. he does not like that he goes -- he goes to paris to study art and he hates paris. he comes back after a few months. and, he thinks this is not for him. as they say, he is a loner. so, instead, he moves to the north sea -- the northeast coast of england and he lived there for almost 2 years by himself.
he does these amazing watercolors, i think homer is one of the 2-3 greatest american watercolor painters, a world class watercolor pager. notice the way he gets the water pooling up on the sand as these women are walking. one is holding a baby on her back. they are pretty woman, there is a sentimentality there that homer later get rid of. the fisherman community is there. the sky he uses -- muddy colors, you have a sense of rain, it has just happened or is about to happen again. he manipulates -- he takes probably an eraser to erase the surface of the watercolor paper, to make it more porous and grabbing of the ink. this is possibly his masterpiece , it is called "inside the bar" , and it shows a fisher woman
carrying a basket, her apron is swirling behind her, she is wearing clogs like -- clog like shoes, the manner in a fishing boat, there is a boat here, the water is even black and more ominous than in the previous image. possibly there is a rain shower coming down, the woman is strong, she is physically strong, unlike those 4 fisher wives who see more -- seem more delicate and fragile. this is a woman who is used to wrestling with the elements. that is increasingly the way homer depicts women. what more can you tell me about her? sarah, make some comments her physical command of the space. >> i mean, she is a peer -- very powerful figure. her arms look very strong and
toned, her whole body. her stance is confidence. she seems firmly in position. >> great, what you are saying is unlike the earlier men we saw who were very precarious, homer here has her in a precarious position but she is totally taking control of the space. she commands the space, she is unafraid. i love the way her swooping apron -- do you see the outline of the apron? how it is picked up in the backyard? and also the shape to the right? she is perfectly integrated with her world, with her job, with her -- you know, she is with the men in earning olympic -- living. >> how she is positioned with
her bandana -- >> rosie the riveter. this is the same concept. excellent. after a couple of years in england, he moves to maine. his family of the -- owns a small property in maine, homer moves into the family house on prout's neck. he lives almost the rest of his life here, he is a recluse . we have no record of him entertaining friends there. the story goes that he became so famous that city people would come up from boston and new york to knock on his door, and he would pretend he was out there. he did not want to be interrupted. he made a lot of contact with the rural mainers of prout's neck . and that part of town,
scarborough, maine. here, it is an absolutely gorgeous painting of the bay that is where prout's neck is located. you can go there today to his studio, it has been restored, by the portland art museum. you can go to the studio and you can go out on these lots that he painted images up. here is a woman carrying lobster traps, another carrying netting. when he shows women after that first sort of valentine showing of pretty farm girl, he basically shows women as working-class people. who are connected to their world. that are sort of no-nonsense people. look at the yellows at the top of the composition, the scarlet's in the clouds, a little bit of sun because this is a sunset, the cloud bank is
mostly covering over the sun. a little bit of it is there, there is a ship on the horizon, there is the earth, the shoreline, scarborough, maine. so, a very powerful image. here is one of the most beautiful, most astounding pictures, this is owned by the louvre. it is one of the only american paintings in the louvre collection. it is in the 19th century branch of the louvre. i have been to paris many times, and seen many people who had no idea who winslow homer is, or was. they stop in front of this painting, it is such an arresting painting. all it is showing his two young women dancing on some platform, a wooden platform, at night while other people are watching the waves coming in.
it is a popular folkestone that the -- folksong that they are probably dancing to. homer, who is not the money he spent a lot of look -- time looking to -- at famous art, is nonetheless intensely or unintentionally referencing one of his most famous works of romance pending. it also shows people sitting on the rocks, looking out to the sea in the moonlight. here is a detail, you see how almost astonishing and brilliant he was as a crossman. the way he can capture the moonlight on the ocean by these flecks of white that he disperses throughout the image. the civil wedding of the watchers -- and the figures. and the embrace of these two women. it is almost these two women becoming unified as one. here is the further detail, of
almost the bliss that is on this woman's face as she is embracing another woman. there are possible sexual connotations there that i would not deny or dispute, but you do not have to go in that direction. the direction is -- that i want you to take is this almost primal embrace and dance on the shore, the edge of the sea, at the edge of the land at night. d.c. what i mean? there are almost these -- do you see what i mean? there are almost these ritualistic connotations there. so, homer, around the same time he is painting women dancing on the sea, he goes out with fishermen into the grand banks, and it was a very dangerous thing to do, typically every year new england would lose hundreds of men who went out to the sea in the ships and never came back. now, here is an image of two men gathering herring in a net.
it is a beautiful, haunting image, there is the boy for the trap, there are the ghostly sails of the ships in the distance. the men are wearing hats, somebody was talking about the hats covering over the women who are picking cotton. similarly, these men, their faces are obscured, their identities are obscured by the hats. but, their body position shows them hard at work. this man is gathering fish, this man is also gathering a net. he has his bottom over the side of the boat to sort of balance that. so, homer is here showing two people, like those two tent mates at the beginning, where they are relating but not really relating. they are of the same world, they are collaborating to make something happen, yet, each is
his own. well, another image from this period is called "fog warning". this is in the boston museum of fine art. one of homer's most famous works. and, it shows a man -- a mariner, a fisherman, wearing his rain gear, wearing his hat, you can barely see his face. he has a beard, and he has his hands grasped on the oars of his ship, his boat. it has the carcasses of two large halibut in the bowel of the boat, and he is looking off at this boat here in the distance. it is called "fog warning" to make it clear what is happening -- a bank of fog is coming in. what would happen on the grand banks is, the men would have to go out, they would have to leave the mothership to get out far enough away to catch the fish, and each crew would go off in different directions. but, if a fog came in, and
someone on the mothership would start ringing the bell madly because the bell could be heard a great distance, and you had to get in, and you only had x amount of time to get in, because once the fog came in last for many days. that is when people were lost at sea, they could never find their way back to the home should., -- so, that is the image. he is in the waves, there is the big cloud bank, coming in, presumably he has heard the bell. he has his oars up at a moment, just when he's about to put them down again, there are drips of water on the oars. what can you tell me about his body langwood? does he look like he is in control, frantic, desperate, -- >> frantic or desperate,
definitely alarmed or aware of the situation. >> he is aware of the situation, okay. i think right at the beginning somebody was talking about his concentration. this is a man who is like, utterly concentrated. and, the concentration is not only in his body language, and the tilt of his head, you know, he has been listening for the bell, but he is gauging how far has to go to get to the ship before the ship is lost in the fog. so, it is a race against time, but he is not panicked, he has tight control on the oars, which shows he has this sort of professional skill and wherewithal to get there. maybe you could say this is homer being sentimental and optimistic, it is not such a dark, despairing picture because he is going to get there in the end. another one from this time is called "the lifeline" about a new device that had been introduced to rescue people
when ships were crashing off the sure. somebody from shore would fire a gun that would shoot an arrow -- like an arrow with a pull cord to it, they would attach it to the ship, and then through a series of pulleys, they would attach a big rope or cable to the ship. and then, they would take the person onto this like, flat tire, and a rescuer, a fireman, we take the person. it is not very efficient, it is one person at a time. it is labor-intensive. so, we have this man here, rescuing a woman, here is the detail of it. now, alayna, what can you tell me about the woman, the man, the situation? >> the woman seems pretty desperate, i can't really tell,
but it looks like her eyes are closed. >> she is swooning, she is out of it. >> yes, she looks unconscious or something. the man in the situation clearly is a lot stronger. if he did not rescue her, you would assume she would have been dead. >> okay, that is a good starting interpretation, it is almost as if there is a primal gender difference here. the man, the strong forceful individual who was necessary to rescue the woman. he is her lifeline, he is her connection to survival. so, you could interpret it as the sort of patriarchal man, who is necessary to further the race. yes, megan? >> i think it is unique that you cannot see his face. and whatever her skirt is, it looks kind of like fake blood,
like you would do in a movie. >> like a gushing a fake blood. okay, excellent. let me point out another thing, you see her bare legs. she is wearing shoes and black stockings, she is showing a little bit of her leg, which would've been, in victorian america, white shocking. but, it is understandable in this image because she is being rescued after all. you do not expect to be perfectly put together when you're being rescued. the man is this anonymous figure whose face is covered over. here is a case where there is literally no face for the man. he is just almost the mail force, the male presence, the mail it -- male id, as it were. homer never married, we do not
know if he was heterosexual or homosexual, nonsexual, he was, as i said a very reclusive person. there are a lot of theories about him in that regard. okay. so, is this something to do -- one theory could be that homer's own repressed sexuality is here in a fantasy of holding a woman, having her arms -- your arms around the woman but not even being able to admit it. in other words, is this sort of preposterous to sexualize this image? we have done enough of this in this class that you are not surprised by it, julia, what do you think? >> i think there are a lot of things that make me think it is possible sexual undertones. >> including this ejaculate
spray. >> that, her posture, i mean, she looks very -- >> she has been ravaged. >> she has her curves, she has her skin out, also called the red seems to be coming from her torso region. that symbolizes to me fertility in some ways. and then of course the posture of the man behind her is sort of a sexual position. >> yes, first of all, i was going to say there is a famous movie from 1953 called "from here to eternity." i am sure none of you have seen the movie. there is a famous scene from it that is almost parodied, of a couple lying on the beach, it is a black-and-white movie. they are on the beach making out, and then the sea comes in,
and covers them over. and everyone in 1953 understood that as a sexual metaphor. well, possibly there is a kind of sexual metaphor going on here. more importantly, and this is a theme that we are going to -- that i'm getting too here, is that homer increasingly becomes about the primal elements of nature. about rocks crashing, waves crashing against nature, about life being formed, he is a darwinian, in a sense. he looks at nature and procreation as a part of the same package. sexual pleasure is primitive, it is in the dna. that is what he would've thought. he would not have used the term dna, but i think that is what these paintings get to. here's another one showing two lifeguards rescuing two drowning women. off of the surf. it is called "under two." and, look at this. the man is almost impossibly muscular.
this man is like a cover of a romance novel. his shirt has been ripped away from him. and then the two lovers -- there is even debate whether these are two females or one female and one male. so, gender in homer becomes almost ambiguous, more ambiguous as his career goes on. but, in terms of painting, just from this detail, you can see, again, what a master artist he is. what he can convey with his brushwork. he does, he is a great water colorist. he goes on a series of holidays. he cannot even -- always stay on the coast of maine. he goes into the adirondack mountains. he often works with an older guy, who, i would say,
is the same model he used in this one, "the man with the beard". except now, where is he going? this man, in 1876, he is pointing off to the internet -- infinite horizons. the great america that is out there. in 1893, where are the horizons? is it about america coming to a dead end, or is it about homer himself, who is now filling his age and mortality, is about his coming to a dead end. in any case, the boat really -- it is an image of a man sort of about to be integrated into decaying nature. he shows a painting of a young huntsman who is roped a stag, trying to bring in the stag while his hound is in the water. homer uses white and washes of color to convey the tension of
the moment. at the same time, he paints this painting, "huntsman with dog could quote and notice here how the dogs are yapping, the deer has already been scanned, the boy has his rifle. it is a similar figure to the country boy who we saw back, in "defiance" instead of being under the horizon, the boys going over the horizon. to me, i would say this is an image -- we talked about homer's attitude towards the land. this is one of his most socially critical paintings. overtly socially critical. about the rape of the land. about this sort of taking and dominating land, this is no barefoot boy, this is a boy with his hobnailed boots on, stopping -- stomping on the tree trunk as the dogs spin around. it is an image -- sort of a
hellish image, very powerful. of america at the end of the century. he increasingly paints paintings simply of the battle between the elements. between the sky, the surf, the eternal rocks. he shows, as americans -- many people around the world at the turn-of-the-century are thinking millennial thoughts. what is going to happen after 1900? there is kind of a fantasy anxiety that homer's paintings, especially the ones that have no human beings in them, become . this man will vanish. thanks to thomas cole, in the course of empire. he does not even give us that. he does not even say civilization will return eventually. it is desolation ahead. is that such a bad thing? he spends time vacationing in
the bahamas, he does brilliant watercolors of men fishing for sponges or gathering turtles out of the water. and, we could spend so much time analyzing just the technique of this. the washes of blue up here and here, and down here. the green, and the blinding white. he is able to capture a sense of the glare, you know, you almost need sunglasses to look at this painting, the way he uses raw paper to convey that. and then he paints one of his very last masterpieces. it is at the met in new york, it is called "the gulf stream. " it shows a single man, a bohemian sailor wearing long pants, no shirt, the sun is claiming off of his sweat, he is on a boat, the boat has been
de-masted, probably in a hurricane. there is a typhoon coming his way, there is a ship going in the opposite direction, nobody is paying attention to him or rescuing him. think about freezing up, when we talked about the boat keeling over but there are people in the harbor. this man has no help. there are sharks, there's blood in the water, the sharks are swirling around. it is a bad situation to be in. of course it will remind you of another painting that we talked about in this class. and, homer would have known the shark because it was in boston. it was one of three versions of boston -- in boston. we could talk about this, that the man is black. and, homer very well may be using this as an allegory to talk about the plight of the black individual at the turn-of- the-century. jim crow politics have taken
over, lynchings are on the rise. the supreme court, in the case of plessy v ferguson said black people do not have to have the same rights as white people, they can live in substandard housing, and go to some substandard schools. they do not have the right to travel in the same first-class carriages on the train. it was such a retread -- retrenchment of the civil war. a rolling back of any kind of rights or privileges black people had earned from themselves. and, this seems to be a terribly sad image of black helplessness and aloneness. this is not only the individual alone, but the loneliness and isolation of an entire race of people. in the conditions of america, this shark eating condition of
america. i do not want to say it was purely a painting about race. i think we can still interpret it more broadly, about mankind at the end of the 19th century. a famous author i mentioned earlier, stephen crane who wrote "red bad of -- red badge of courage" wrote another short story in 1898 called "the open boat" about men who are stranded and shipwrecked. they are in the water for days and days, and they despair that they are going to be rescued. the narrator says when it occurs to nature that man is not important, he first wishes to throw bricks at the temple but, when he accepts his own utter insignificance in the grand scheme of things, he writes, nature did not seem cruel to
him them -- then you're treacherous or wise, but she was indifferent. flatly in different. so, we call this view of naturalism. not like naturalist as an somebody who loves nature, and goes into nature, but a view of mankind as being part of a cold, impersonal, indifferent universe. so, the last few images here. this painting of homer's i have always loved, "kiss the moon" it is so weird. you see three men, possibly a fourth, in a boat in deep water, the sun is on the horizon, with black clouds coming in. sean used to -- the word stoic. these men are maybe at the end of the world, at the end of their lives. but, they show a stoic face. okay, the last couple of images.
one of the last paintings homer ever painted shows two ducks flying over a trough of water, and in the distance, you see a man standing up in a boat shooting them with buckshot. one duck has just died, and is going into the water. the other duck is alarmed, possibly this is his own partner, so there is a sense of death, destruction, the end of things. remember, the puff of fire without the beginning. homer keeps returning to the same themes over and over again. it is almost as if these men in the troughs of water are the ones who were firing the shot at the ducks from here. last painting we will look at, "fox hunt" homer, 1893. inches a winter day, a fox seeking some sort of
nourishment while a fox -- flock of crows are flying overhead waiting for him today. he is a predator, but they are superior predators because he is trapped in the snow and he is nowhere to go at the end of the earth. and, the land. and then the cold, green sea and the icy sky beyond. the crows are hovering over him, there are a few berries near, but not enough to sustain him. around the same time, vincent van gogh's last painting, wheatfield of course, had a similar scene about the end of existence, whether it is personal existence, or humankind's existence. these are things that troubled winslow homer. they were part of his make up. his deep, dark complex, never really understood makeup. from the beginning of his
career to the end, as you can see, he has been utterly consisted in his attempt to make art that captures the imagination. it captures the eye, and says something, often very dark about humanity and a larger condition of universal existence. so, that is it for today. thank you for being here. keep working on your bibliographies, we will move on, next time. [ applause ] c-span's washington journal, live every day, with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up thursday morning, democratic strategist steve mann and republican strategist todd harris talk about the best and worst lyrical ads of the 2018 elections. and boston law professor -- joins us to talk about tax laws. be sure to watch she spans -- c- span's washington journal on sunday morning. joint the discussion. -- join the discussion.
this weekend on american history tv, saturday at 8 pm eastern on lectures in history, university of delaware professor tiffany gill on the role of african-american women in this -- civil rights movement. the 1960 a broadcast, the nixon answer in michigan. and on sunday, at 7 pm eastern, the 30th anniversary of a tenement museum in new york city, and at 8 pm, on the presidency, former first lady barbara bush is in children and laura bush reflect on her life and legacy. watch on american history tv this weekend on c-span 3. in the late 19th century, changes in technology led to new architecture designs that allowed buildings to be built taller, and incorporate more class for natural light and interior spaces. next on lectures in history, iowa state university professor thomas leslie talks abt